Author Archives: Clare Creighton

Embedding Learning Strategies in Your Course

by Clare Creighton

In my 12 years at the Academic Success Center (ASC), I’ve enjoyed teaching dozens of sections of ALS 116: Academic Success. This course helps students develop skills and strategies for success in college-level learning environments. The course includes topics like time management, metacognition, and effective study strategies—all topics that students apply to courses they’re taking.

ALS 116 is an absolute delight to teach, but my favorite approach to teaching learning strategies is embedding strategies into the context of a specific course. In fact, I would argue that every course has the opportunity to help students make connections between learning strategies and what it means to be successful in that particular course or discipline.

With 5-10 minutes here or there early in the term, instructors can help students identify and apply strategies to support their success throughout the term. This is an easy way to help flatten the learning curve around college expectations and create an on-ramp for what is already a rapid 10-week term.

How to Get Started

One entry point for embedding learning strategies would be to ask yourself, “What learning strategies and skills would help students be successful in my course?” You could then follow that up with, “Where in my course do students learn those strategies and skills?”

Another entry point could be to review the list of strategies below and consider which activities might be relevant to students in your course.

Model Reading Strategies

Reading is used differently across courses, and students may not know how approach reading differently for each course. You can help by naming the role reading plays in your course. Does it precede lecture? Exist primarily as a reference? Support homework or exam prep? During the first week of the term, talking through how readings are used in your course and explaining and modeling reading strategies can make reading more manageable and effective for students.

Plan Out Long-Term Projects

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a long-term project. Students who haven’t had a chance to build project management skills may benefit from learning about a tool like the backwards planning worksheet.  Working together to apply this tool to a project gives students the opportunity to practice organizational skills like breaking a large task into smaller tasks and scheduling work over time.

Support Note-Taking for Online Lectures

We’ve heard from students that note-taking for a live online lecture or a video is different from previous approaches. We also know that there are many note-taking variations. Follow an early lecture with discussion. Ask about note-taking approaches and main points folks captured in notes. Share an example of how you (or a TA) took notes on the same content. Invite students to upload their notes and try different note-taking approaches based on the content and format of your lectures.

Make Study Groups a Lighter Lift

Students are looking for connection and community and ways to replace their typical in-person study groups. Talk about how remote study groups might work in your course and encourage use of tools to get started.

Encourage Test-Prep Strategies

Like reading, test prep looks different for each course. Direct students to Learning Corner resources on test prep or encourage students to attend an ASC workshop on test prep and the science of learning. Creating a brief assignment or extra credit opportunity where students reflect on and apply takeaways can help students tailor their test prep strategies to the course and content.

Deconstruct Assignment Expectations

Interpreting assignment expectations can be a source of stress for students. You can help by giving time during class or in online discussions for students to analyze an assignment, practice using a rubric, or plan how to approach tasks. This can also be a great time to let students know about resources available to help with their assignment. For example, a Writing Center virtual tour can make students aware of ways to get feedback at any stage of the writing process.

Scaffold Independence

With any of these techniques, you can scaffold to move relatively quickly to independent learning. For example, you could guide students through creating a study plan in advance of the first midterm, debrief the process post-midterm, then give students time to create their own study plan for the second midterm or final exam.

Embedding learning strategies early in the term can be a great way to encourage students’ use of strategies all term long. If you find yourself looking for tools and resources to support students in your course – reach out! Email me or Marjorie, and we’ll help you navigate  resources from the Academic Success Center and Writing Center.

Reflections on the Remote Learning Experience Survey

by Clare Creighton

Over the past two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with Maureen Cochran (Director of Student Affairs Assessment) and Erin Mulvey (Transfer Transitions Coordinator) among others, as we researched, designed, and launched a survey to understand students’ current experiences with remote learning.

Survey Design & Response Rate

We sent the Remote Learning Experience survey invitation to Corvallis and Cascade campus undergraduates on April 23rd. Having reviewed sample surveys (HEDS COVID-10 Institutional Response Student Survey and Educause DIY Survey kit), we developed a set of questions you can preview through this link. The survey was designed to be quick to encourage completion. We also wanted analysis to be manageable, as we have used responses to reach out to students who are struggling. By the survey’s close on April 29th, 2892 students on the Corvallis campus had answered at least 75% of the survey–an overall completion rate of 16.29%. This low response rate should be taken into consideration when interpreting findings.

Academic Themes from the Survey

For brevity, I want to share just a few things from my experience working with the data. Given the lens from which I work, you’re going to read a particularly academic focus.

I coded open-ended responses to the question: “What would improve your learning experience in your spring term courses?” The responses reflect what many university students are likely experiencing given the reality of a sudden adjustment to remote delivery. I’d like to highlight two themes and takeaways that I’ve found applicable to my work in and out of the classroom.

Themes & Takeaways

Theme #1: Students are experiencing an increase in assignments, lectures, videos, and readings and are feeling overwhelmed by the workload compared to previous terms. Some students feel that perhaps instructors think they have more time now when, in reality, their workload has increased dramatically and many factors make it harder to complete work.

Take-away: It’s worth revisiting my expectations (of myself, staff, student staff, and students) keeping in mind the backdrop of the pandemic. These are challenging and stressful circumstances. It is hard to stay focused and work efficiently, and screen fatigue has a tangible physical impact. Students shouldn’t need to name why they are stressed or apologize for feeling overwhelmed. At the ASC, each of our team leads is checking in with student staff—do they want more hours? Do they need fewer? In my own work, I’m asking, how can I demonstrate empathy and understanding in the current situation?

Theme #2: Students expressed a desire for course consistency and organization that would help them plan and create routine. A predictable rhythm, clear expectations for assignments, increased access to instructors, and coursework posted earlier were among the “asks.”

Take-away: Previously, I considered myself very organized (although don’t look at my desk). And yet, I am challenged by the shift to navigate all communication, information, and interactions through a single device. I can use what I know helps me stay organized to help students. For example, I can send updates once a week in the form of a digest. I can be generous with deadlines and offer structure and reminders to support their process. I can adapt communication to help students understand the focus of the message (what is different and important) and any actions needed (what they should do).


As we begin planning for summer and fall, we have a chance to plan service delivery with a bit more leisure and intentionality. Even a return to in-person delivery for fall will be different than in the past. This creates another new learning environment and transition for students. I hope to honor the voices and perspectives captured in this survey as we address future delivery of our services and coursework.

Knowing the findings from the survey can help the OSU community better support students, we have disseminated survey information through a few avenues. Survey information is for internal use only. A PDF on Box provides a high level summary of responses as well as coded themes from open-ended questions. Please contact Maureen Cochran for access.

Transition to Remote Delivery – What We’ve Learned

by Clare Creighton

Like all of OSU, the Academic Success Center (ASC) has spent the last few weeks getting programs and services up and running remotely. We’re happy to report that all ASC services are available. You can visit our website to learn how to access each one.  So, what have we learned in the process? Besides the fact that we love seeing pets in meetings, of course.

Creating Meaningful Interactions

While it seemed easy from a technical standpoint to conceive of delivering services through Zoom, we wrestled with replicating elements we valued from in-person interactions. Abbey identified a challenge for Academic Coaching “to maintain the quality of conversation and relationship building that students have come to know and appreciate.” The coaching team asked, “How can we convey care, listening, and support through video/phone conversations that feel more distanced?” Before facilitating webinars, Sarah and Julia grappled with how to validate responses and engagement with a large group online. Preparing for Supplemental Instruction (SI), Chris and Angela have asked, “How can we cultivate the same sense of community in a remote environment that students experience at in-person study tables?” We’ve tried many strategies for meaningful interactions in services and are using weekly meetings and debriefs to learn more from experiences this term.

Supporting Staff

One of the biggest “lifts” in preparing for remote services was making sure student staff were prepared. While we’d previously dabbled in remote formats, there has been a lot to learn around technology. Our biggest asset in the learning process has been our student staff. Over spring break, a team of coaches helped to experiment, troubleshoot, and explore the set-up before coaching went live. Clare says they were “creative, responsive, dynamic and energized” during the process. Strategists launched the Zoom room to replace walk-in consultations. Anika noted that “a huge part of the strategist role [has always been] adapting their approach, so it makes sense that they’ve taken to this so well.”

The ASC’s training and professional development for student staff is grounded in skills like independently evaluating situations, responding to student needs, and debriefing experiences to learn from them. We’ve been able to capitalize on these foundational skills; and coaches, strategists, and SI leaders have done an amazing job thinking through service delivery in the remote environment.

We’re also acutely aware of the need to personally support student employees. Anika stresses how important is to remember that “we are all human and are experiencing this change in different ways.” This also means thinking differently about availability. Abbey has arranged “regular drop-in hours where coaches can chat about whatever is on their mind, debrief appointments, or ask questions.” We’ve noticed an important part of our job these days is the support we provide to student staff, each other, and campus partners as we navigate remote work.

Adapting to New Environments

Our professional staff’s work environments have changed as well. Marjorie now has a window, and ready access to Selena albums, leading to spikes in productivity mid-afternoon. It’s not all fresh air and Entre A Mi Mundo in terms of change though. Anika has noticed that working remotely, “you miss out on some of those spontaneous conversations that can spark new ideas.” Clare has found that “being pulled in multiple directions from work to childcare is going to require a new organizational system,” and notes that, “[she has] a lot of appreciation for student parents right now.”

These changes have not been easy on any of us, and our team is mindful of the challenges facing the OSU community as we engage remotely. At the ASC, we’re doing our best to make navigating this term a little smoother and hopefully a little less isolating. To that end, we’ve found value in communicating frequently, being flexible, showing up as human beings, and, above all, demonstrating compassion for ourselves and others.

Welcome to The Success Kitchen

We generated the name and concept for our new publication long before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we approach spring term. In many ways, I think it applies now more than ever. From snacking to stress-baking, am I the only one spending more time in the kitchen?

Cooking and baking are, for me, an act in experimentation, sometimes planned and sometimes reactive and improvised. I’m not alone here either. The media group America’s Test Kitchen is known for the work they do testing recipes, cooking equipment, ingredients, and highlighting not just their results, but the process and learning along the way.

The title of this publication, The Success Kitchen, draws inspiration from that design. We at the Academic Success Center want to share with you some of the things we’ve explored, learned , read about, developed, and implemented. We want to share successes and pass along the learning when things didn’t work out as planned. And we want to spark conversations, highlight the work of others, and share collaborations that took us somewhere exciting—all around the theme of student success at OSU.

So, this is our inaugural issue of The Success Kitchen. We hope you’ll enjoy what’s to come, and we invite you to be a part of the process. If an article sparks an interest, please reach out and join the conversation. Consider partnering with us on a feature. Not to belabor the metaphor, but we’re eager to share what we’ve been up to in our “kitchen” and we want to know what you’re cooking up too.

~Clare Creighton

Director, Academic Success Center